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GOVERNMENT SPEARHEADS LMDS STANDARDS DEVELOPMENT

Boulder, Colo., is set to become a test bed for recently licensed Local Multipoint Distribution Services systems under the direction of the National Wireless Electronic Systems Testbed.

N-WEST is a project of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences, two agencies of the United States Department of Commerce. ITS is the chief research and engineering arm of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.

The mission of N-WEST is “to promote the development of the LMDS industry by developing and carrying out tests and measurements at the system and component levels … [and] to promote sound and rational operational standards and specifications based on open technical results.”

Several years ago, NTIA installed a PCS test station in Boulder. N-WEST plans to install an LMDS node on the station and add other sites around Boulder to perform point-to-multipoint transmissions and collect information from the system. It is hoped the results will be used by the industry to “develop design choices that become consensus standards.”

Roger Marks, director of N-WEST, said the test bed ideally will be generic in order not to favor one company’s system over another.

“The way I see it, there is sort of a hole where the [Federal Communications Commission] has gotten out of the business of regulating the spectrum that it licenses,” said Marks. “The original theory was that the free market could determine the standards.”

However, not everyone is overjoyed there is more than one standard used in unregulated personal communications services networks, said Marks.

Cooperation on a standard would allow LMDS carriers to bring services to market more quickly and efficiently, which would enable carriers to realize a return on their investments sooner, said Marks. Although N-WEST has no authority to mandate standards, it hopes to receive cooperation from LMDS service providers.

“They don’t want to get locked into a system that isn’t compatible with everyone else’s,” said Marks. “Even now some of the smaller players are acknowledging that down the road they might be part of a larger operation,” and their systems will have to be compatible.

N-West is focusing its efforts on several fronts, said Marks. The group is trying to get license holders, systems companies and component manufacturers involved in the process. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. is exploring an “industry-centric standards process” in which companies are involved in standards development.

N-West also is attempting to raise funding for the project from the government.

Over the summer, N-West will circulate a draft plan for the group’s structure and scope. Marks said he expects a version to be completed at a kickoff meeting for N-West to be held before the 1998 IEEE Radio and Wireless conference-RAWCON ’98-Aug. 9-12 in Colorado Springs, Colo. RAWCON is focused on broadband wireless.

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